Marco Attila Hoare has written a post critical of the left's attachment to the politics of class and, surprisingly, argues that it inevitably leads to moral relativism.
I find the link with relativism tenuous, to say the least, however, this is not the only problematic feature of his argument. It seems to me that he equivocates between three distinct positions.
The first is borne on his tide of despair at the attitude of the SWP to the crisis in Bosnia. Here he rejects the doctrinal rigidity that resulted in a refusal to face the reality of the struggle for national self-determination against aggressive Serb nationalism and later spawned the "red-brown alliance" of the Stop the War Coalition. I fully agree, but this is a reflection more of the inanities of the SWP than being a necessary consequence of a class analysis.
The second is fully in tune with other types of radicalism. This amounts to a rejection of the idea of the centrality of the industrial working class as the sole, specific agent of historical change. You will find it in some strands of Anarchism. For example, thinkers such as Patrick Geddes and Murray Bookchin favoured local and global peoples' action instead of class-based movements and parties. On the surface, it would seem that Hoare is writing in support of this perspective. However, Geddes and Bookchin were genuine radicals seeking fundamental change to the material and cultural structures of society, whereas Hoare argues that the role of the left is to act to promote a range of universal principles "that apply to the whole of humanity" rather than to promote a single group, a more nebulous and limited ambition.
This isn't where he started though. He began his post by being critical of an aspect of Nick Cohen and Andrew Anthony's analysis that one of the factors that has led the liberal left into its current pickle is that it has divorced itself from the working class. This is an odd target. What Cohen and Anthony are arguing is that the left is indeed indulging in class politics; it is just that it is the wrong class. They suggest that, rather than represent the interests of the working class, the liberal left have completely abandoned them, embraced the 'virtues' of inequality and justified their elite status through the comforting idea of 'meritocracy', all the while neglecting working class concerns in the smug pursuit of a communalist politics that does not threaten to raise their taxes.
And here comes the crunch. How are universal principles to be exercised in an unequal world? How are human rights to be fully realised without economic security, or, in many parts of the the world, basic subsistence? In a conflict of interest between the privileges of the few and the rights of the many, whose side are you on?
To abandon pragmatic judgement of where people's interests may lie in favour of a rigid historicism is clearly foolhardy. But surely the left's concern is with the exploited, the outcast and the oppressed. Its support lies with whoever would be their liberators. A left that fails to stand with the oppressed against their oppressors is not worthy of the name. And, whether he likes it or not, this is a class analysis.
(Ta Will - again)